Red Lipstick Challenge: Week one (plus a bit)

So I’ve finished up one week, and a little bit more, of my Red Lipstick Challenge. I started with my least favorite products so I could weed them out. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. I’ve outgrown the bright, orange-toned, Fire & Ice reds that started me on my red lipstick journey. I still enjoy wearing them, but I prefer a truer red now.

2. I’ve got a lot of lines on my upper lip, and some of my lipsticks feather into them when I don’t use lip liner. My Julep invisible lipliner has gotten a lot of use this week.

3. I’m just not a fan of liquid lipsticks. I’ve found one that I can deal with because of its longevity (Stila’s Beso), but I’ll probably save it for parties and date nights where I don’t want to touch up my lipstick so often. I also learned that Beso is Boyfriend’s favorite red of mine.

4. No one at work has commented that I’m wearing red lipstick every day. I think this is more a testament to how often I’ve started wearing it, rather than a testament to their perceptiveness, as they’ve never been shy about commenting on things like that before.

5. I love, love, love the experience of putting on lipstick from a bullet-style tube. I’m already predicting the outcome of this month based on this.

6. I am not a fan of the vanilla-y scent of Lipstick Queen lipstick. I’ve been loving the feel and the color, but I keep getting a whiff of vanilla and it’s my least favorite scent. Also, they fade surprisingly quickly.

Next week, I’ll be getting into my favorites and starting to wear things again. I’ve actually already retired most of the lipsticks I wore over the last nine days, so I’m down to only about four or five favorites.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine: New Beauty Finds

I’ve written previously about my vintage-inspired beauty routines, but I thought I’d add some updates and new finds. I alluded to some of these in my last post about my face prep for red lipstick, but I thought I’d give specifics.

I recently got a sample pack of lipsticks from Vapour Beauty, in my attempt to find a non-toxic lipstick that I could feel comfortable eating when it ends up as lip prints on my sandwich at lunch. Sadly, none of their red lipsticks were at all what I wanted, and I was at a loss for what I might use the $10 off code from the sample pack to buy. I decided to take a chance and buy one of their Aura Multi-Use color sticks in the color Courtesan, a lovely rose pink. I simply adore this shade. It’s rosy and neither too warm nor too cool a pink. It looks like a natural flush, and blends easily because the cream formula slips like a powder once you get it on your skin. It’s a little dry on the lips, so I only use it as a blush.

I’ve also upgraded my face makeup. I now use three separate products to conceal imperfections. I mentioned BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Gel Cream, which I adore, especially with the sun out in full force again. I’ve also found a stick makeup, W3ll People’s Narcissist foundation stick. I use it mostly as a concealer, but it will work as a fuller-coverage foundation for days when I need to look tip-top, like when I have an audition. I use that for spot-concealing most days; the formula is fairly matte, although I do get a bit greasy under it after several hours. For my undereye circles, however, I prefer Tarte’s Maracuja Creaseless Concealer. I found a shade that looks slightly too orange on my hand, but blends perfectly under my eyes. It kind of sinks in and just looks velvety instead of like makeup. This gives me an everyday flawless look without looking too perfect, like when I’m in my stage makeup.

On top of all that, I set my makeup with a rose-scented rice powder based on a 1908 recipe, made by Little Bits Historical on Etsy. Her shop is a treasure trove of vintage-recipe beauty goodies, and I was drawn to this powder in one of my favorite scents, rose. The powder itself is a lovely, fine-milled rice powder that buffs into my skin easily and keeps me from getting shiny or greasy all day. It also has the most intoxicating scent: roses, but a little deeper note from the sandalwood she includes. And it’s very lightly pink to help brighten my warm complexion. I only wish she had a mini version that I could keep with me at work for touch-ups, maybe with a mini powder puff!

Just a note: None of the links above are affiliate links. I get nothing for raving about these products, just the satisfaction of sharing things I’ve enjoyed. Also, stay tuned for next week, when I’ll share my all-time favorite Etsy seller!

A Clean Slate for a Red Lip

So today is the first day of my personal Lipstick Challenge. My goal is to wear a red lip every day, so that I can get a good idea of where my collection stands before I buy new lippies. In order to really make the red shine, I like to keep the rest of my makeup incredibly simple. A nice clean slate for the lip to shine.

I’ve talked about my beauty routine in the past, so I won’t go into detail here. I rinse in the shower with warm and then cold water and then pat in a couple drops of facial oil. This soaks in while I eat breakfast and have my tea. Then, when I’m ready, I brush my teeth, do my hair, and finish my makeup.

I’ve actually stopped wearing eye makeup since I started wearing my glasses all the time, partially because it makes my eyes itch a little, and partially because I don’t really need the emphasis when I wear bold frames. So my makeup routine, before my bold lip, focuses on creating even-toned, but naturally-beautiful looking skin.

I prep with a swipe of rose toner to remove excess oil, then apply BareMinerals Complexion Rescue gel cream. It’s an oil-free, silicone-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free tinted moisturizer that leaves my skin glowing and slightly evened out. The lovely thing is that they make all three undertones in all their shades, so I can finally embrace my proper pale skin (I’m light but warm, so generally have to go with “medium” shades to keep from looking chalky or too pink). I apply my gel cream, undereye concealer, and concealer on any spots, and let that sink in. Then, I blend out the concealer and apply a bit of cream blush on the apples of my cheeks. I follow this with a dusting of rose-scented rice powder made from an historical recipe from 1908. I promise I’ll go into detail in the future about these last two, as they are recent discoveries.

This leaves me with soft, clean skin that’s ready for a bold lip! And it’s not just for red lips, either. Because I knew I was bidding au revoir to my non-reds yesterday, I decided to rock a deep berry lip. Against pale skin with just a hint of blush, it was very Gothic looking without looking Goth.

The Hunt for the Perfect Red

Until recently, I never wore makeup on a regular basis. Since I’ve started dabbling in vintage style, I’ve re-examined red lipstick and found that I really like it. I started wearing red lipstick sometimes back in December, and by now I feel like my face looks weird if I’m not wearing bright lipstick, usually red.

But red lipstick is daunting. It’s scary. “Red,” as it turns out, is not just one color. Like foundation, you have a find a good match your coloring and undertone. A lipstick that looks fantastic on one person may look odd on you. And then there’s the fact that bright lipstick is, well, really obvious, and if it ends up somewhere you don’t intend it, it will be similarly obvious.

I remember at a winter drinks party, I learned the kryptonite of one of my favorite lipsticks: a combination of oil and alcohol, in the form of hot buttered rum. Halfway through the party, a woman leaned over to me and said “I thought you would want to know, you have lipstick on your chin.” Despite having worn a pretty sturdy matte lipstick that had proven itself against food and drink before, it was no match for the solvent powers of alcohol and fat.

So finding the perfect red lipstick is trickier than just finding red lipstick. Here, I’m going to document a little of my hunt for the perfect red lipstick, along with a list of my current favorites. Fair warning: I haven’t found that perfect red lipstick.

When I first started out, I wore Revlon lipsticks. Their classic matte lipsticks are surprisingly devoid of the nastiest of cosmetics chemicals, and they make a color called “Fire and Ice” that turned out to be my gateway red. It’s just bright and red enough, but still doesn’t actually look garish. And the balance of warm and cool tones keeps it from pulling weird colors on me. I also got a tube of “Certainly Red” for more festive occasions.

But then I found out that Revlon was one of the companies found to have detectable lead levels in their lipsticks. It dawned on me while seeing the lipstick marks on my lunch sandwich that I eat an awful lot of lipstick when I wear it every day. There were also some issues with the company head that made me not want to patronize the company anymore. So out went Revlon.

From there, I discovered Lipstick Queen, which makes a fantastic line of “Sinner” lipsticks that are highly pigmented. Their “Red Sinner” is a saturated true red, while “Fire Red Sinner” worked a bit better with my coloring. Sadly, they also don’t do much testing of their pigments to watch for lead contamination, so I kept looking.

Enter Bite Beauty. I’m super enamoured of this brand. Seriously, their colors are BRIGHT. I got a Cashmere Lip Creme in “Rioja” (a nice true red), a Matte Lip Crayon in “Fraise” (slightly pinkish strawberry red), and a High Pigment Pencil in “Bramble” (a blackberry color for when I’m feeling Goth). I also bought a mini lipstick duo on a whim because it was on sale in “Tangerine” and “Lingonberry.”

Well, it’s not red, but “Lingonberry” has become my favorite non-red lipstick. It’s so pigmented, it stains my lips for ages. It ended up being the color I wore for one show of the play I was in in January because I wore it during the day and it wouldn’t come off for the show. Oops.

But on to the reds. Fraise is probably my favorite. I love the color of Rioja, but the formula leaves something to be desired. I also got their Luminous Creme Lipstick in “Apricot,” but it was a little too brick with its warmth. I like it occasionally, but I want something brighter. And I went with a High Pigment Pencil in “Pomegranate” for a nice true red in one coat with a blot. Bite’s lip colors are pigmented enough that I can generally apply one coat and blot and be good to go. They do make a Luminous Creme Lipstick in “Pomegranate,” so I want to see if it has the same staying power as Lingonberry.

But I really wanted a lipstick that I could put on in the morning and forget. Probably a pipe dream, especially considering I wanted one that I didn’t have to worry about the chemicals in it that I would be putting so close to my mouth. So I tried Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in “Beso.” First of all: Oh. My. God. It is the perfect red shade. And it’s pretty lasting.

But.

But it dried oddly on my lips. Even when I prep with a little lip balm, it dries and accentuates my lip wrinkles. And then, it starts to flake. I can salvage it with a little balm, but then it loses its transfer-proof-ness, and sometimes smears. At least Stila as a brand vets their ingredients to avoid heavy metal contamination.

So I’m still looking for that perfect red. My ideal red would be a matte bright, slightly-warm, but not brown red in a bullet that goes on in one application and lasts through several cups of tea and at the very least fades evenly through a meal without running. If the lipstick fairies are taking requests, that’s what I’d like under my pillow in the morning.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 5: Hair

Of all my beauty practices, my hair is the most complex. It has involved more experimentation than even my skincare routine, and has gone through far more ups and downs. That’s to say, in addition to the quality of my hair, I’ve also run the gamut of length.

The Victorian women to whom I often turn for beauty inspiration wore their hair long and pinned up. For years, I grew my hair long, letting it get to my waist at one point, and I wore it up almost all the time. I still have an edited version of my vast collection of sticks and combs and hair toys from my very-long-haired days.

After my divorce, I got a pixie cut. I actually liked it a lot, and stayed pretty short for the next few years. But I haven’t had my hair pixie-cut for over a year now, and my hair has grown back out to a chin-length bob. So I can experiment with more hair styling, although the elaborate buns are out of the question. I occasionally set my hair in rollers, but the result is decidedly 20s due to the length. I look rather like Betty Boop.

As far as hair products go, this is where I feel the need to compromise quality with natural-ness. I’ve tried all sorts of totally natural and homemade hair washing techniques, including herbs, egg shampoos, soap-and-vinegar washes, and “no-‘poo,” and all left my hair pretty gross. I had resigned myself to using detergent shampoos, albeit the gentlest and most natural I could find, before I found my current shampoo and conditioner: Griffin Remedy.

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I cannot tell you how impressed I am with this line. I first found their hand lotion because I needed a pump bottle to keep on my desk and they were one of the few without a common ingredient that irritates my skin. I also loved the vintage look of their logo, and when I looked at their website and saw they had shampoo, I was intrigued. But I was wary. Looking at the ingredients list, there was nothing on it that would suggest the product would be at all effective. It just seemed too damned natural. But I looked around, and it had a lot of surprisingly good reviews. So I bit the bullet and ordered a bottle of their Daily shampoo and conditioner from the website.

I have to say, my first week using Griffin Remedy was amazing. I had to use so much less of the shampoo than my normal natural shampoo, that I actually used too much the first time and had a hard time rinsing it all out. And does it ever lather! It was like an episode of I Love Lucy on my head when I went to lather it up the first time. After that first mishap, I learned to use a quarter-sized amount and lather it up. It leaves my hair clean and very, very silky, especially the next day. I also got the accompanying conditioner. It’s rich enough for my coarse, indestructible hair, and they both smell like oranges.

Of course, over the holidays, I had another mishap: I left my shampoo at Boyfriend’s family’s house. And since I had discovered a product  I loved, I had to order more. This time, I ordered the Glossing shampoo and conditioner (they were on sale!) and I love them, too. They have a slightly different scent, but it’s still light and natural, and the conditioner is maybe a bit richer.

I’ve taken to only washing my hair about every other day. I try to stick to three days per week, but if my scalp feels funky, I go ahead and wash it. My hair is much more unhappy with under-washing than over-washing. On in-between days, I sometimes rinse my hair with plain water to refresh it, or I’ll just don my turban to keep my hair dry while I shower.

When I wash my hair, I wet it down and then lather up with my head flipped upside-down. It’s really the only way I can access my entire scalp properly to clean it. I smooth on the conditioner upside-down, too, in order to make sure I get the whole length, but avoid the scalp. Too much conditioner on my scalp has caused itching for me. I rinse well and then rinse with cold water at the end of my shower. Then I blot up moisture and twist my hair into a handtowel, securing it behind one ear. This keeps my hair up and out of the way, and takes out more moisture.

My hair is naturally quite straight and heavy, and it is difficult to get it to curl, so I don’t generally bother. Plus, I like to shower in the morning to feel fresher, so I don’t have time to let my hair dry in rollers after a shower. Most mornings, I either blow-dry my hair with a round brush and pull the crown back into a large barrette, or else I’ll pin the top back and pull it into a ponytail. I also use side combs sometimes to pull it back into a more Victorian-style hairdo.

A note about color: I used to color my hair with henna and indigo to cover the grey, but the process is time-consuming and messy. I’ve decided to embrace my grey hairs, which do stick out rather starkly from my dark hair, although I occasionally will use a temporary tint to cover them for the stage.

When I do want to curl my hair, I use a spray bottle with a mix of rosewater and tap water to mist individual dry or mostly-dry sections, and roll it with foam rollers. I also dab on a bit of mousse. I roll it and let it set for a while, until it is totally dry. I might set the hair dryer on it for a bit. Then, I remove the rollers. This yields the aforementioned Betty Boop hairdo.

Finally, sometimes I subject my hair to excessive amounts of abuse, for me. When I was in performances for my latest show, I had to do a 60s-inspired hairstyle. This involved blow-drying my hair to make it perfectly straight and fluffy, then flipping the ends out with a curling iron, pulling back the crown and securing it, and then spraying the front to look like side-swept bangs. I then secured the whole thing with hairspray. Needless to say, after two weeks of this, my ends were pretty crispy. So in order to treat my hair, I slathered on a few teaspoons of virgin coconut oil and left that in overnight before shampooing and conditioning the next day. It more or less revived my abused hair.

So that’s my hair routine. I’ve now covered most of my basic beauty routine. there are, of course, constant updates and tweaks, so in the future I can focus on those.

 

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 4: Nails

We’ve covered face and body, and now I’d like to turn to my hands. As someone who does a lot of typing and work with my hands, nail polish is not a regular part of my beauty routine. But I do need to maintain nice-looking nails, and I occasionally like to give them the full treatment.

My main nail maintenance consists of keeping my nails trimmed and filed, and massaging some of my homemade lip and cuticle butter into my cuticles before bed every night. The mango butter and beeswax protects my hands and keeps my cuticles from drying out.

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When I want pretty nails, I generally stick to classic colors: neutral pink or bright red. I also occiasionally reach for a gentle grey or a metallic gold, but red or pink are my go-to. When I’m feeling glamorous, I reach for red, but pink is for interviews and most stage shows.

When I’m painting my nails, I butter my nails the night before, but I avoid all creams and moisturizers the day I paint my nails. I trim and file them, and maybe push my cuticles after showing, but I try to keep them free of oils. I wipe them down with a bit of witch hazel just to remove and residual oil

Then, I apply two coats of nail polish, allowing my nails to dry pretty completely between each coat of polish. When that’s done, I apply a coat of Insta-Dri top coat to ensure things stay shiny and chip-free. The last time I did my nails, I was dumb enough to paint them the night before set-building for my play, and they managed to survive intact. Despite having a pretty manual job sometimes, my nails often survive four or five days with no chips at all, and a week with a moderate level of chipping.

It’s a pretty simple nail routine, but it adds just that little something to a vintage-inspired routine.

The Power of Red

The other day, I rolled into work and flashed a smile and at the security guard.

“What a bright smile!” he exclaimed as he waved me through. A nice moment.

And yet, it was a surprisingly profound moment for me. You see, as a child, I almost never smiled. I had nice enough teeth. Not so bad I needed braces, but not the perfectly-straight smile that my friends who had suffered through braces had. And I just felt awkward smiling. My childhood photos are shot after shot of my tight-lipped, awkwardly stretched, close-mouthed almost-smile. Combined with heavy eyebrows and straight, almost-black hair, I cut a severe figure as a child. And it didn’t get much better as I got older.

As I started getting back into theater and needing photos for auditions, I found one friend with a nice camera who was adept at catching my rare smiles, and even eliciting them with his dry, self-conscious humor. He said I had a lovely unconscious smile, and strove to catch those, as well as the occasional laughing, mouth-open smile. For a long time, my favorite shot was one of me looking down, hands clasped, smiling privately.

But it was effort to get those shots.

As soon as I started wearing red lipstick more often, I realized that I wanted to smile more. I felt like a movie star. I felt more outgoing. Poppy King once said that women who worry they don’t have the confidence to wear red lipstick are getting it backward because red lipstick will give you confidence, and she’s not wrong. Red lipstick is like armor for my face. I feel instantly brighter and more alive. It perks up my face and my spirits.

So even though I don’t wear it every day, I’m increasing every week. Whenever I feel tired or frustrated or run-down or some other form of not-best, I reach for my red. And when I do, I instantly feel lifted. I highly recommend it.

For years, I focused on black eyeliner as my makeup look of choice, thinking that I couldn’t wear red lipstick because the few times I tried it, the shade I chose looked off. Then, I went and tested different shades at a store that had lots of different shades. And I learned that my skin tone tends to make lipsticks look cooler on my face than in the tube. So I started gravitating towards orange-based reds rather than true or blue-based reds, at least for every day use. The little bit of orange warms up the look and tones down the red-ness of it just enough that it doesn’t feel like Halloween.

I highly recommend that every woman try to find that perfect red for her. Go to the drugstore or the beauty supply store or Sephora (if you’re so lucky) and try some on.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 3: Makeup

Having washed my face and body, I dress and prepare myself to go about my day. This generally involves some sort of makeup. My makeup routine is minimal, and tends to be inspired both by the 1940/50s and the Victorian Era. I try to use natural products when possible, and since I wear makeup primarily to work, I can’t do anything too outlandish.

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I’ve already gone over my skin care routine. I firmly believe that good skin care is the foundation for beautiful makeup. I always prep after my morning rinse with a couple drops of homemade oil blend patted into my skin and allowed to absorb. I don’t use foundation over my whole face, just a bit as a  concealer. I use Bella Mari Moisturizing Foundation as a concealer, although it can be a bit greasy, so I blot under my eyes when I’m done. I’m considering buying their cream concealer for more coverage. The Foundation also makes a nice light base for times when I need a bit more overall coverage, such as when I’m going to an audition. I love that you can order up to four free samples from Bella Mari to do color-matching, and only pay about $4 shipping.

Then, I wake my face up with a little cream blush. I apply it to mimic a natural flush, like so. I love NYX Cream Rouge, and I have it in two colors: Natural, for everyday, and Glow for when I want a little bolder of a flush. The Natural gives me that perfect English-rose complexion, while the Glow looks a lot like the flush you get from being outside on a cold day.

For eyes, I stick to a swipe of mascara on my upper lashes every day. My current mascara is Pacifica Aquarian Gaze mascara, although I’m not entirely settled on it. For a special occasion, I may add eyeliner (black liquid liner in a cat-eye, Zuzu in Raven), and perhaps eyeshadow. I use a matte eyeshadow palette, theBalm Meet Matte Nude palette. It has some lovely browns, greys, and a nice navy, which suits my style more than brighter colors. I’ll either brush a lighter color over my whole lid, or else do a smokey eye or cut crease with a bolder shadow.

Lipstick is generally the biggest source of variation in my day-to-day routine. I choose either a bold lip or a subtle lip. For a bold, opaque lip, I love my Revlon lipstick. My everyday red lip is “Fire and Ice”, an orangey-warm-cool red color released in the early 50s that I find very wearable. If I’m feeling punchy, I might use “Love That Pink,” a bright flamingo pink, or “Wine with Everything,” a darker, wine-toned red. “Sassy Mauve” is my natural-not-natural lipcolor. Oddly enough, I have a little birthmark at one corner of my mouth and this color matches that mark’s color. At party time, particularly for Christmas, I swap out “Fire and Ice” for “Certainly Red,” a very true red. I apply three coats of Revlon lipstick, with a blot between the second and third coats, straight from the tube, with a little modified X-shape to define my Cupid’s bow. If I’m going out for the evening, I might dust a little finishing powder through a tissue on that last coat to keep things in place a little longer. With all the tea-drinking I do at work, I generally reapply once after lunch, as I try to remove my lipstick before eating an actual meal to avoid eating lipstick.

For a subtle lip, I have a tube of Mineral Fusion Lipsheer in Exotic. It’s a warm pinky-nude that completes the “English rose fresh from the garden” look started with understated makeup and a rosy cheek. Or I use Pacifica’s Coconut Kisses in Lava, a sheer red balm, for a more Gibson-girl-inspired look. I generally stick to subtle lips for weekend days when I might have previously gone without makeup. But even with a more “done” lip, this basic routine takes maybe five minutes, with a little extra if I’m doing my eyes a little more. It’s helped me to commit to wearing makeup most days. The overall look is very fresh and timeless, which lends a vintage look depending on my hair and clothing.